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Incumbents Win City’s First Contested Election in Three Years

Patricia Sadowski, Benito Ortiz, & Jennifer Shukaitis Win 2:1 in Low-Turnout Election
The 1-2-3 Team
Jennifer Shukaitis, Patricia Sadowski, and Benito Ortiz each won three-year terms on the city school board on April 19. New Beginnings For New Brunswick Schools

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ--Three incumbent members of the city's school board each seeking three more years  in office were victorious in the low-turnout April 19 election, and voters once again approved the district's budget.

Patricia Sadowski, Benito Ortiz, and Jennifer Shukaitis each got about 300 votes cast citywide, figures that were bolstered by relatively strong turnout in the two geographic areas that are strongholds for the city's political machine.

Challenger Yesenia Medina-Hernandez came up short in her first electoral campaign, garnering 156 votes.

It was just the third time in city history that voters were given a choice of candidates to serve on the city's school board, which was appointed by the city's Mayor until 2012.

Similarly, voters have not had a choice in recent ballots for Mayor and City Council, making this low-profile race for school board the first time there has been any contested election for a local public office in New Brunswick since 2013.

The district's $198.6 million proposed budget, including a $29 million tax levy, was approved by voters 260-73, according to unofficial results provided by the City Clerk.

Sadowski came in first place at the voting machines, according to the results, which do not include mail-in or provisional ballots.

306 city residents voted for Sadowski on Election Day, followed by Ortiz with 304.

Shukaitis, who was appointed to replace an elected BOE member last year, earned 299 votes, more than enough to secure a full three-year term.

Here are the unofficial results, starting with the polling places that had the highest voter turnout:

Polling Place Jennifer
Shukaitis
Patricia
Sadowski
Benito
Ortiz
Yesenia
Medina-
Hernandez
Lord Stirling School
(Wards 1 and 2)
49 49 50 20
St. Mary's CYO Gym
(Ward 2)
46 47 43 23
Senior Center
(Ward 6)
52 49 45 9
Woodrow Wilson School
(Ward 1)
45 48 42 12
Board of Ed Building
(Wards 2 and 4)
24 28 32 21
Providence Square
(Ward 5)
18 20 22 6
Labor Education Center
(Ward 1)
12 17 18 15
Lincoln School
(Ward 6)
17 13 14 12
Hungarian Heritage Center
(Ward 5)
10 11 10 10
Schwartz-Robeson Center
(Ward 4)
8 6 7 5
First Reformed Church
(Ward 5)
7 5 6 7
Dept. of Public Works Garage
(Ward 4)
3 5 5 8
Roosevelt School
(Ward 4)
5 5 6 4
NB Middle School
(Ward 4)
3 3 4 4
TOTAL 299 306 304 156


The numbers posted by winning candidates Sadowski and Ortiz pale in comparison to their vote totals from their first election three years ago, when the political establishment faced a challenge from a full slate of opponents, including the publisher of this newspaper.

Ortiz garnered support from 682 voters on Election Day 2013, more than twice the number of votes he recieved in this year's contest.  Sadowski's vote total was also cut sharply, falling from 675 to 306.

In fact, the vote totals of the winning candidates in 2016 would not have been enough to beat two of their opponents in 2013, who garnered 344 and 379 votes each.

Medina-Hernandez came out on top in the results recorded at just three of the sixteen voting machines in use, including the one in her home district.  But, unfortunately for her, none of those wins came in districts that saw a sizable turnout.

For example, Medina-Hernandez came in first in the voting at the Department of Public Works, with 8 votes, three more than any other candidate.

But the incumbents racked up their biggest wins at the high-turnout polling stations in New Brunswick Senior Citizens Center and Woodrow Wilson Elementary School, the voting places for the neighborhoods where Shukaitis and Sadowski hail from respectively.

Shukaitis pulled down 52 votes at the Senior Center, compared to just nine for the challenger.  In Woodrow Wilson, where residents of Rutgers Village and Edgebrook vote, Sadowski came out on top with 48 votes, compared to just 12 for Medina-Hernandez.

The incumbents were so confident they would prevail that they spent the final few hours of the campaign in a curiously-timed Board of Education (BOE) meeting.

Sadowski took the opportunity to announce that it would be her last BOE meeting as Board President, a position she has held since 2004.

The BOE will select a new President at its "re-organization" meeting, scheduled for 7pm on May 3 inside the auditorium of New Brunswick High School